LIFE HAS MARKED US
WITH ITS SLOW STAIN
The War at Home
CONTROVERSY DOGGED JANE ADDAMS and Hull-House. The quest for cleaner streets put her on a collision course with Alderman Johnny Powers and his "boodling" operation. Although she won the garbage battle, she lost the war with Powers. It is worth taking a closer look at the campaign against Powers in order to understand why Addams and her colleagues failed in a number of important battles, including their concerted effort to unseat the entrenched alderman at the polls on two separate occasions.
Addams had a distinct advantage in most debates so long as she could cultivate the "extension of household duties" theme as a rationale for social action. But when her desire to mitigate the dire circumstances of the immigrant poor led her to intervene in matters that many thought were not her concern—were not, in general, "woman's business"—she opened herself and the other residents of Hull-House up to sometimes ferocious criticism. Demonstrating that piecework in sweatshops was contributing to higher rates of tuberculosis, or that the mingling of sewage removal and water drinking pipes caused typhoid epidemics, was a legitimate "housekeeping" concern. But to insist that one couldn't deal with such matters effectively unless certain officials were either removed from office or pressured into changing their views—that put Addams into the rough-and-tumble of politics reserved for men.